How the Celtics Can Build a Super-duper Team
Kawhi Leonard wants to be traded and so I made this comment that led to some people asking how it would be possible.
To be clear, this was said mostly in jest. It's highly unlikely that the Celtics end up there, but the math to make it happen isn't all that complicated and the Celtics front office is always thinking big.
The Celtics could easily put together trades for just Kawhi, but those aren't fun to play with. Plenty of other people will be explaining that today.
How would you go all out?
LeBron Opts In
LeBron has a player option for $35,607,698 next season. That's actually a bit more than his max is projected to be as a free agent on a $101M cap. He would have to opt in and then be traded to Boston, like what Chris Paul did with Houston, so this would all have to be set up with some light tampering.
He can't come to Boston in a sign-and-trade (at least not if we're also getting everything else you can imagine) because that would hard cap Boston at ~$6M over the tax line and we're going to blow away the luxury tax.
Boston Draft for the Cavaliers at 27
The Celtics are going to send the 27th pick (or you could include Theis or Ojeleye but we're playing the "get everything we want" game) to either the Spurs or Cavs. In this example we'll say the Cavs but we want the salary for matching purposes so we'll make this trade before the draft and then just take who the Cavs want.
Boston Signs the 27th Pick
Again, we want this small salary so the Celtics sign the player first.
Wait a Month
We now have to wait a month to make things official because the draftee can't be traded for a month after signing.
Ok, now we have to get ruthless. The Celtics are going to send Gordon Hayward to San Antonio even though Boston just signed him a year ago and then he got injured. We need to move a big salary and that's the one that makes the most sense. Kyrie doesn't make enough.
Kyrie, LeBron, and Kawhi all need to be on-board to a certain extent, though technically the C's could just make the moves and hope everything works out in 2019 free agency. Because he needs to opt in, LeBron really does need to sign off on this.
Boston Receive: LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard
San Antonio Receive: Gordon Hayward
Cleveland Receive: Pau Gasol, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Guerschon Yabusele, Abdel Nader, the 27th Pick
The Spurs and Cavs each take back around $5M less than they send out so there are no worries on contract matching there. Both create TPEs along the way. If the Spurs want to include Patty Mills instead of Gasol they could, though the Cavs probably don't want all those years on the deal and the Spurs are getting Hayward for a player they're losing anyway.
Boston may have to kick in picks to grease the wheels here, but those don't impact the salary math. If the Spurs want the Memphis pick and the Cavs want Boston's 2019 or the Clippers pick that may never convey but has more upside, Boston can live with it.
The Celtics are sending out $45.3M in salary so they can take back up to $56.75M in return. Kawhi and LeBron will be making $55.7M, so we're all good!
Finish the Business
The Celtics do all of this as an over-the-cap team so they still have rights to Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Shane Larkin comes back on the minimum again, though they could pay him slightly more (it adds quite a bit of tax to do that).
We've got a $65+M tax bill and a ton of questions about what happens next offseason, but you're also hanging at least one championship banner.
It's at least worth engaging in some light tampering to try to put together...